Leadership and Research in Early Childhood Education and Development|2021

Early childhood education is a touchy subject for many parents who feel that their children are pushed too hard, too early. However, when it comes to the field of overseas adoption, this is not an option at all. Some agencies require teachers to have a specific degree in Early Childhood Development before working with international adoptions and even some states do as well.

How is Leadership in Early Childhood Education?

Some argue that leadership is a gender-neutral term and should be used to refer to both males and females in positions of leadership. However, if we look at leadership in early childhood education, we see that it is almost exclusively a female role. The ECE context offers many leadership opportunities to men and women alike, however. For example, at the highest level of professional leadership in pre-school education (e.g., director or deputy minister) there are more males than females.  At the team level, however, it is generally accepted that women are usually found in those positions.

Early Childhood Education

Effective Leadership in Early Childhood Education

In the early years, children require a dependent relationship with someone who can meet their needs. The role of the educator is to model leadership by taking on one or more of the following roles in order to support the young child’s development.

Leadership style may vary within early childhood education but one of the key attributes when working with young children is to create an environment that allows children to feel safe and secure. Pedagogical leadership is an act of becoming child-centered but not child-focused—an important distinction in the early childhood years. This means that as educators we are conscientious of creating a warm, caring environment where children can make mistakes with some guidance from adults. In a child-centered environment, teachers listen to children and respect their views. They also assist children in managing their feelings and emotions. One of the easiest ways of demonstrating this is by helping them identify feelings through facial expression identification. Cultural competence can be exhibited when we view the world from our students’ points of view.

In early childhood education, leadership is directly related to teaching and learning. Not only do leaders need to be knowledgeable in the subject matter area they teach but also have knowledge of how children learn. In early childhood education, early as well as current research has shown that children learn best by doing. After all, early childhood education is a hands-on field of study. The quality assessment tools used in early childhood education such as observation and interaction are some of the best ways to determine if teachers are effectively leading their children’s learning.

Early Childhood Education Leadership Styles

There are four early childhood education leadership styles that early childhood educators must be knowledgeable of. These are the autocratic or command style, democratic style, a laissez-faire approach and participative leadership.


The early childhood educator uses this type of leadership style to ensure everyone does what is needed to accomplish a goal. This is a good leadership style when early childhood educators are new to teaching or early childhood education. They will use this approach until they feel confident enough with their knowledge and confidence in themselves to switch styles.


This early childhood educator believes that decisions for any part of the program should be made by everyone involved, including parents. In early childhood education, democratic leadership is considered the best style for early childhood educators to adopt when working with children. This way everyone has a voice in what goes on during early learning experiences.

The laissez-faire approach:

Early childhood educators use this type of early childhood education leadership by doing nothing and letting things take their course, with the understanding that early childhood educators will become involved only when needed. Although this is one of the early childhood leadership styles, early child-care is not a free-for-all where children do what they please. Early child education classes should be designed around an educational plan and philosophy.

This type of early childhood leadership style must be adopted early in the early childhood educators’ career, not as a permanent style.


This early childhood leadership style is one adults use when they need to gain support for their ideas. The early childhood educator who employs this type of leadership becomes involved with others early in the decision making process and then steps back while allowing others to decide how to move forward. In early childhood education, the best time for early childhood educators to use this style is during planning and prior to implementation of an early learning experience.

Early Childhood Education

Why is Research Important in Early Childhood Education

Research has an important role in early childhood education. Research helps identify effective practices that improve the learning experiences of young children. Research also enables practitioners to understand how children develop cognitively, physically, socially and emotionally so they can provide a developmentally appropriate curriculum for all young children. Research is therefore necessary to help solve problems related to teaching and learning in early childhood education. Research also helps practitioners understand the effects of new educational laws and policies, such as the No Child Left Behind Act and Head Start Renewal Act. Research is important to help evaluate programs that must be implemented as a result of these laws and policies so children are not left behind or harmed by the program implementation.

Research is also important in identifying and understanding the barriers that inhibit children from achieving their potential. Research can help educators learn about ways to remove these barriers so all children may have equal opportunities for success. Research-based knowledge has many practical applications in early childhood education including: effective teaching strategies; curriculum development and evaluation; family partnerships; program evaluation; professional development and training for teachers, child care providers and other early childhood educators. Research-based knowledge is necessary to improve early childhood education.

Research helps identify the best ways to teach young children. Research identifies what teaching strategies are effective in the classroom so teachers may utilize these practices with all children. Research also enables practitioners to understand what curricula are most effective so programs may be implemented that provide all children with a quality education. Research also helps practitioners evaluate their curriculum and determine if it is developmentally appropriate for the young children they serve. Research can help identify learning disabilities, such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), so that these difficulties may be appropriately addressed.

Research is an integral part of early childhood education (ECE). Research informs decisions about child development and learning that influence policy and practice. Research can support the development of temporary, long-term and permanent educational plans for young children in all learning environments regardless of their type or location. Research also provides evidence about current approaches to early childhood education that contribute to future decisions and directions.

Early Childhood Education

Research helps educators make informed choices so they can provide effective programs, teaching practices, classroom experiences, policies, and support for young children. Research informs early childhood educators about the cognitive and behavioral development of young children and what is an optimal learning environment.  Research in early childhood education is an ongoing process; it does not end. Research and evidence take time to develop, reflect on practice, compare results with other programs or approaches, implement and evaluate the outcomes accordingly.

Research also helps early childhood educators to identify young children’s strengths as well as their needs so they can provide them with a suitable learning environment. Research is beneficial to practitioners and the children they work with as well as other people who are involved in early childhood education such as parents, policy makers, politicians and other decision-makers. Research can provide information on which policies will be most effective (Kagan & Kagan 2005). Research can also illustrate how research can benefit young children’s development and learning.

Research also provides information about how early childhood educators can use evidence-based practices, teaching strategies, methods of support and classroom environments to improve young children’s intellectual and physical health. Research informs the development of programs designed to help children develop and learn. Research provides knowledge that contributes to the development of long-term plans for young children. Research also influences curriculum practitioners, educational staff, early childhood educators, parent groups and policy makers. Research can assist in decision making about child care, primary education.

Key Research Issues in Early Childhood Education

  1. Research should be of primary interest to educators and those who plan, conduct, and utilize research related to early childhood education (e.g., in-service teachers, curriculum specialists, parent groups). Research is conducted by professionals from the fields of education and psychology; however, the ultimate users are made up of a diverse group of caregivers.
  2. Research concentrates on the process and outcomes of programs that are designed to provide optimal experiences for young children, whether in preschools or family child care homes. Research should consider multiple outcomes (e.g., cognitive, social, emotional) and should relate these outcomes to participation in all components of an integrated system for early childhood education—including preschool, family child care home education, and parent education. Research should be designed such that findings can be used to improve early childhood programs (e.g., program development, professional development) at all levels of children’s participation—child, home, preschool or center setting. Research must include consideration of curricular and non-curricular aspects of programs for young children (e.g., adult-child interactions, family and community support). Research should be conducted within the context of a social services system that includes not only education and day care services for preschoolers but in which adolescents are also served through comprehensive services throughout their childhood and youth.
  3. Research should generate knowledge about effective approaches to early childhood education (i.e., those that are most likely to promote optimal cognitive, social, and emotional development of young children). Research must consider the effects of multiple risk factors (e.g., economic disadvantage, family disruption) on learning and behavior as well as the interactive effects between environmental influences and children’s individual differences. Research must use a variety of research designs (e.g., experiments, quasi-experiments, cross-sectional/longitudinal studies) to conduct examinations of developmental changes from early childhood through adulthood. Research should deal with the following:
  4. Research must examine the effects of different approaches to child development (e.g., the role of child development and care in early childhood programs) on young children’s learning and behavior as well as on their physical health and social adjustment. Research should focus on the long-term effects of early environmental experiences on children’s ability to form healthy relationships, understand complex information, learn effectively, make decisions, and function successfully in society. Research should be conducted within the context of developing an integrated system for educating young children that includes family child care homes as well as preschools (public and private). Research must examine how professional development activities influence teachers’ knowledge about, skills in, and attitudes toward engaging families of young children in educational decision-making. Research should be designed to produce findings that are translatable across cultures and contexts. Research must examine the effectiveness of early childhood programs for children who are at risk (e.g., African-American, Hispanic populations) due to economic disadvantage, family disruption, or physical and mental health problems. Research topics should include not only interventions intended to remediate problems experienced by at-risk children but also interventions that focus on prevention through the promotion of healthy development. Research must include assessments of non-cognitive skills such as self-regulation, social competence, and emotional well-being (e.g., in response to life stresses).

Early Childhood Education

Research Topics in Early Childhood Education

Among the best research topics in early childhood education include physical and intellectual development, family characteristics of ECE teachers and the national character of early childhood education. Research in these areas provide a clear understanding of how early childhood education classes can benefit children throughout their lifetime.

Physical development is one of the key stages that helps children develop intellectually, physically and socially. Research on physical development among children includes physicians’ role as a child’s role model and how they provide a positive example to their patients. Research on physical development also includes how early childhood education teachers can build healthy relationships with their students by providing a physically stimulating environment, such that it will be conducive for children to learn in.

Quantitative Research in Early Childhood Education

Quantitative Research in early childhood education is a valid, effective and reliable means to answering Research questions. This review argues that quantitative Research questionnaires have a very important role in early childhood education. Questionnaires provide researchers with opportunities for obtaining answers to Research questions relying on the opinions of large numbers of people who can be sampled from different parts of the world.

Research studies that use concurrent designs, quasi-experimental research designs and longitudinal design Research questionnaires have been able to gain access to the opinions of different teacher groups as well as parents and children. Some Research questions require long period Research questionnaires that place participants under a variety of conditions for large parts of their lives (e.g., cognitive Research questionnaires of Research questions related to school readiness). Research Questionnaire can also be used as a way of assessing Research outcomes for the purposes of Researching about Research.

Qualitative Research in Early Childhood Education

It is important for the field of early childhood education to look at and understand how field researchers are conceptualizing children’s learning. Qualitative research differs in its concept of children’s learning from quantitative research due to a sociocultural perspective of learning as well as theoretical and methodological differences. Research should not only be simple generalized, but it must be interpreted within the particular context in which it is conducted.

Early Childhood Education

Benefits of Research in Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education (ECE) is an educational system that aims to prepare children, between birth and eight years of age, to meet their developmental tasks when they begin primary school.” Research on early childhood education has many benefits for both the researchers and those involved in the various aspects of ECE. Research such as this continually advances the practice of early childhood education in both formal and informal settings. Research-based knowledge leads to the development of new theories, models, concepts, definitions, principles and practices that can then be implemented by educators (Hanses).

Researchers study topics related to early child development from a variety of disciplines including biology, psychology, sociology and philosophy. Research on early childhood education is often linked to the cognitive development of children. Research can also be useful for teachers because it allows them to gain confidence in their knowledge and skills, as well as allowing them an opportunity to continually improve their own practice. Research conducted on early child development provides valuable information about the developmental process of children. Research on physical development, for example, helps understand the various stages children go through as they grow (Wessells).

Early Childhood Education

Research has found that during these early stages children develop motor skills at different rates with some excelling in one area while struggling in another. Research findings have also shown that mental development can occur simultaneously or slightly after physical development. Research in this area has helped clarify the various processes involved and will continue to help educators plan effective instructional methods for children. Research on young children’s social developmental provides valuable information for teachers and parents about how a child’s relationship with others develops. Research findings have shown that relationships between children precede play behaviors, supporting the idea that play is a tool for learning about relationships with others.

Research can help teachers plan activities that allow children to develop social skills and relationships as well as learn how to communicate effectively with each other in order to enhance their growth (Wessells). Research on early childhood education has been valuable because it helps identify development stages, understand what the children are learning, and gain an understanding of how they learn. Research has provided a foundation for much of the knowledge behind early childhood education’s practices. Research on ECE provides educators with insight into what children are capable of and serves as a guide to develop effective instructional programs (Hanses).


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